In A Vase On Monday: April Abundance

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The sweetness in the air today wafts in whenever the door is opened. 

It envelopes one in warm enticing fragrance with each trip out of doors into the heavy, moist air.  We had storms last night with wind and rain.

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But the dogwoods held their flowers.  A few more daffodils have fallen over perhaps, and the newly leafed out roses bend nearly to the ground under the weight of their wet leaves.  Perhaps the pruning should have been more aggressive, after all.  But no matter, soon they will cover themselves in roses.  There will be time for pruning when the first flush has come and gone.

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The lilac shrubs in the butterfly garden began to open yesterday.  Last night’s rain left them sparkling and lush, and still full of buds.

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All of these shrubs came mail order over the last four years.  They are Syringa ‘Josee,’ a dwarf reblooming variety with superior disease resistance.  They came as rooted whips, and spent their first year or two in a pot.  As they outgrow their pots I plant them out where they enjoy the afternoon sun.

They have all the beauty and fragrance of traditional lilac shrubs, but won’t grow much taller or wider than 6′.  They will re-bloom sporadically through summer and into the fall.  This is one of the shrubs predictably pictured in many winter garden catalogs.  They always go on sale in spring, grow quickly, and make a lovely container planting for a season or two.

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Also in today’s vase is the first of the Columbine to break bud,  Columbine leaves, apple mint, late Narcissus, and a piece of our Akebia vine.

Rain has hovered nearby all day, with periods of bright sunshine poking through only occasionally.

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Akebia quinata growing up into the trees

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The garden is wet, and more storms are forecast for this evening.  I brought the flowers in for photos, and the cloudy day made it feel a bit dimmer than usual as I photographed this springtime vase.

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You may notice a beautiful little fairy sitting with the vase today, an original creation by Creekrose, given to me earlier this week.  This exquisite little handmade doll feels full of the happiness of springtime, and was dressed to match today’s vase.  Such a loving gift from, and so much enjoyed already.

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We can feel the transition in the garden now to late spring.  The Daffodils have nearly finished, buds cover the roses, more perennials have announced their survival, and our trees are all leafing out.  The shade will arrive just as we need it, now that temperatures continue to climb towards summer.

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Please remember to visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, who generously sponsors A Vase on Monday each week.  You’ll find links to many wonderful arrangements of spring flowers in her comments.   I’m always delighted with the beauty picked from others’ gardens.  It makes the world feel a bit smaller to see the same flowers blooming many thousands of miles away.

May you find joy in the beauty of your own garden this week, and perhaps clip a few stems to enjoy inside.  If you’re like me, you may be so busy preparing the garden for spring that you aren’t taking much time to cut and arrange.  There wasn’t much time today to fuss over arranging these, and they could have been shifted around to better advantage, perhaps…

But once a flower is cut and brought inside, it seems to subtly change somehow.  I appreciate them more, and take time to really see the unique beauty of each once they are placed in a vase.

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If you do cut a few stems from your garden, please share them in a post, and link back to the comments in Cathy’s post this week, and mine, so we can all enjoy them with you.

Woodland Gnome 2015

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Snow and More Snow

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I can remember times, when I was still teaching, when I would lie awake at night wishing for a snow day.  School kids have more in common with their teachers, sometimes, than they may realize!  Everyone needs a break from their routine from time to time.  And everyone I know is wishing now for a break from the snow.

But that break is still down the road and over the weather horizon.  Another storm moves in tonight. We have restocked on the essentials: coffee, cream, and cat litter.

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Snow remains a welcome sight in the winter garden.  Beyond it’s beauty, it also insulates, hydrates, and provides the extended period of cold so many plants in our region require for spring growth.

We may not think about it, but snow absolutely functions like a blanket on our garden beds and in our pots.  Deep snow protects roots, crowns and leaves from winter’s very dry and extremely cold winds.

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Snow insulates and protects sprouting bulbs and awakening perennials, helping them through these last weeks of winter.  Like mulch, it helps maintain a more even soil temperature so plants don’t ‘heave’ up out of the ground during the freeze/thaw cycle.

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Our ground water is replenished from melting snow.  But so are our potted plants.  Plants can’t absorb water very well from frozen soil.  But melting snow waters plants and helps thaw out the soil when it melts in the mid-day sun.  Without snow, hardy annuals and perennials living in pots through the winter may dehydrate on sunny days, especially when it is windy.

I often water our pots with warm tap water on wintery days when there is no snow cover, just to give the plants a chance to re-hydrate.  I’ve also applied a dilute solution of Neptune’s Harvest, in warm water, to offer a little boost of minerals to help our pots make it through winter’s last ‘Hurrah.’

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Snow cover helps certain fruit bearing trees, bulbs, and perennials maintain the periods of extended cold they need in order to grow.   Gardeners in regions with gradually warming climates find that some plants no longer get their required ‘chilling hours.”  This means replacing old reliable plants with different cultivars adapted to the warmer climate and fewer hours of freezing temperatures.  Our extended periods of snow this winter help those plants which need the cold as part of their annual pattern of growth.

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We humans are extremely adaptable, and stubbornly tough.  We find work-arounds for all sorts of frustrating circumstances.  We will deal with this coming winter storm, and the next, and will learn some useful life lessons in the process.

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May spring find you sane, healthy and soon.

But until this winter passes, please remember to stop to appreciate the beauty of it all.

And keep in mind that snow brings its blessings along with its frustrations.

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“The world as we have created it

is a process of our thinking.

It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

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Albert Einstein

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

Growth

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The Amaryllis bulb planted last week has begun to grow, and its pale bud has deepened to green.

The building of this little garden was documented in “The Gift.”    There was a kind request in the comments to show you its progress.  It has been growing since last Sunday.

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In addition to the slight growth of the Amaryllis buds, I’ve also noticed the spike moss beginning to fill out with newly opening buds.

That is beyond exciting to a gardening addict like me!

Imagine, here we are deeply into a solidly frozen January, and I’m watching buds swell  and green in this little inside garden.

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Just for comparison, another photo taken today of a solidly frozen moss garden living outside on our deck.

If the weather forecast proves true, you may see this one covered in ice one day very soon!

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This bottle has now been transformed into a tiny terrarium.  Here, before construction began.

This bottle has now been transformed into a tiny terrarium. Here, before construction began.  Tomorrow I’ll show you the progress of that garden when typing becomes a bit easier.  My left hand remains bandaged today after an unfortunate accident in the kitchen yesterday….  And yes, all is well….

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Woodland Gnome 2015

Feeding My Addiction…

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While much of the country has ice and snow this last week of December, we are a balmy 48 with light showers.

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We had a breath of spring this weekend with sunshine and warmer temperatures.

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We are so fortunate to have a climate mild enough to sustain greenery and flowers through the winter months.

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I am still enamored of moss, and dug up a bit more from the garden to lay in pots near the house.

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I don’t believe it will last long into spring, in those areas with direct sun, but it is nice in the winter when so much of the garden stands bare.

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This is the season when I appreciate our ivy the most, along with our Violas and Camellias, which still have a few blooms despite the cold, wind, and rain.

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There is just enough still growing in our pots to feed my gardening addiction.

Everything is looking rather ratty, to be honest.

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There are still brown fallen leaves blown into pots and around them.

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There are leaves to trim back, and the bare sticks of hydrangea and fig protruding from the pots, just waiting out winter.

But it almost doesn’t matter.

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So long as I can go out from time to time to deadhead spent Viola blossoms, admire the moss, look for signs of bulbs poking up, and take a photo here and there; I am happy.

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Winter returned today with heavy skies, cold wind and rain.  I’ve heard it could snow tomorrow…

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But the coffee is on, and it’s warm inside this afternoon.   A good friend stopped by to visit. 

And there are pots to tend inside, too.

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Woodland Gnome 2014

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Winter Moss Garden

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Building a moss garden is an easy way to dress up large pots for their winter out of doors.

This pot was full of huge cane Begonia plants until last evening.  I took cuttings of the actively growing tips from all of the plants a few weeks ago, and then let nature take its course with the “mother” plants so I could re-purpose the pot this winter.

After removing the last of the now frozen stems and roots, I broke up the soil a bit.  No need to begin with fresh soil for this project!

Since moss has no roots, the soil is only necessary to support the planting.

I planted a dwarf evergreen shrub in one corner, and then contoured the remaining soil into an interesting design, featuring a small “pond” in the opposite corner.

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It rained again over night.  Moss shone with a damp, green glow in several spots around the garden this morning.

Which meant I had my pick of many different interesting varieties of moss.  Some patches had lichens or tiny plants growing up through the them.  I lifted samples from a dozen or more different areas and gently laid them in a plastic lined flat.

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Detail of moss with lichens from a second moss filled pot I assembled today.

Detail of moss with lichens from a second moss filled pot I assembled today.

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It was a bit of a scavenger hunt as I collected not only moss, but also a lichens covered twig  from an Azalea and many little rocks and pebbles from other pots around the place.  A pot of fresh gravel, a bag of tiny Crocus bulbs, and some clear plastic from a UPS bag were the only other materials needed.

When I returned to construct the garden today, a handful of crocus bulbs went into the soil first.  These should push their leaves up through the moss in several weeks, and bloom in February.

I had left a depression in the soil to create a little pond in the moss garden landscape.  This was lined with a double thickness of the clear plastic and then partially filled with a shallow layer of gravel.

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I stacked larger stones around the base of the “bank” to hold the soil back, and then laid sheets of moss over the edges of the plastic.

The goal was to cover all of the plastic liner with some combination of stone and moss.  There are still a few bits of soil showing on the gravel, but these will settle out over the next day or so into the tiny cracks between the stones.

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Since I had several varieties of moss, of different textures, forms and colors, I could lay an interesting patchwork design to cover the remainder of the soil.

Working down from around the shrub towards the pond, I used the larges, loosest sheets of moss first.

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I saved the tighter textured mosses for the outer edges of the design, and used tiny broken bits to fill in cracks and seems.

I had broken off a few stems of succulents from another pot while  collecting stones, and simply pushed these stems into the soil in cracks between sheets of moss.  These will root in place. 

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The garden sits in a microclimate.  Sheltered by the overhang of the roof, it is protected from the wind, and will absorb heat from the house by day and night.  The succulents should survive here.

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After covering all of the soil with moss, I added bits of gravel along edges and cracks to fill in all of the gaps before placing the lichen covered twig and a few more mineral specimens as ornaments in the garden.

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Another pot which I covered in moss today holds a perennial Brugmansia, some herbs, and a Viola.  This pot sits on the front patio.

Another pot which I covered in moss today holds a perennial Brugmansia, some sprouting bulbs, herbs, and a Viola. This pot sits on the front patio.

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Gentle watering completes the garden.  It is important to wash soil and grit away from all of the stones and to settle all of the moss in place.

Care for this sort of garden is minimal. 

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Other than offering water for the shrub during a dry spell,  and keeping the moss moist, the only maintenance will be to remove any leaves which  blow into the pot.

I’ll keep the water topped out in the pond and watch to see whether birds discover this little source of water on the deck.

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A  moss garden provides a small spot of interest and beauty in the midst of winter.

Using only “found” materials, it is possible to create a miniature landscape in a pot which might otherwise sit empty for several months.

Best of all, the moss may be returned to the garden when it is time to plant the pot up for spring.

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I used the leftover bits of moss on a few other pots, and hope to see these “starts” spread to cover the soil over the coming weeks.

I like this effect so much, I may experiment with moss ground cover in my planting designs next spring, mulching the soil under annuals, perennials and herbs.

Moss is readily available,  tough, easy to grow, and free.  It can be found from the Arctic to the tropics.

My only lingering question remains, why isn’t everybody already growing it?

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Moss Garden… Forest Garden

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Moss Garden

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What stays green all winter, shrugs off snow and cold, needs little to no care, and comes in a variety of textures and forms?

Why moss, of course.

 

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Moss is a plant choice we often overlook for winter pots and baskets.  And it doesn’t just work in winter.

Moss is a useful ornamental plant in all seasons.

 

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I’ve experimented with moss before, but most often for inside plantings.  While it stays green for many weeks, when properly watered; moss really doesn’t like life in a dim and heated home.

 

A moss garden I constructed in February of 2012 using stones picked up on the beach in Oregon.

A moss garden I constructed in February of 2012 using stones picked up on the beach in Oregon.

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Moss is happiest out of doors.

Which is why I’m planning a patio planting using mainly a dwarf evergreen shrub, moss, and stone.  Think Zen garden in a pot….

Another moss garden made for a table centerpiece in February 2012.

Another moss garden made for a table centerpiece in February 2012.

 

Have you ever used moss in a potted planting?

I’ve seen a few interesting photo essays in gardening magazines in recent years, but they are few and far between.

 

Moss pairs well with ferns, as their needs are nearly the same. Lichens may also be incorporated in the design.

Moss pairs well with ferns, as their needs are nearly the same. Lichens may also be incorporated in the design.

 

One of the simplest of plants, the 12,000 or so species of moss are grouped into their own phylum, known as Bryophyta.

 

Moss has no roots and no vascular system. Leaves are a single cell thick.

Moss has no roots and no vascular system. Leaves are a single cell thick.

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Mosses are different from other plants, like grasses, because they have no vascular system to carry water and food from one part to another.

Their leaves and stems are usually only a single cell thick, and each cell takes moisture and carbon dioxide directly from the air which touches it.

 

Airborn spores collect on a tree's bark and begin to grow. They don't harm the tree in any way.

Airborn spores collect on a tree’s bark and begin to grow. They don’t harm the tree in any way.

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Like all plants, mosses produce sugars from water and carbon dioxide, using the energy of sunlight.

Mosses growing on trees aren’t parasites.  They anchor themselves in the tree’s bark, benefiting from the moisture which collects there, but don’t take any nutrients from the tree.  Mosses manufacture their own food, like other plants.

 

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Different species of moss prefer to grow on different surfaces.  Some grow directly on the soil, others on concrete, stone, bark, or bricks.

 

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Mosses  produce spores rather than seeds.  Although shallowly anchored in the earth by their threadlike rhizoids, mosses don’t absorb water through them from the soil.

This is why moss seems to thrive in rainy weather, prefers growing in the shade, and tends to shrivel when the weather is dry.

 

Lush moss grows between the roots of this beech tree. Lichens grows on the roots.

Lush moss grows between the roots of this beech tree. Lichens grows on the roots.

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So the secret to growing lush moss is frequent watering, bright indirect light and high humidity.

Perhaps my indoor arrangements would have lasted months longer if I had misted them several times a week instead of just watering them from time to time…

 

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If you decide to create your own moss garden, keep in mind that you don’t need deep soil to establish mosses.  The only reason for any depth in your container would be to sustain the other plants, like ferns, ivy, dwarf shrubs, or bulbs.

Mosses prefer slightly acidic soil. Peat and organic material in the potting mix give this acidity.

One method for establishing moss outside on rocks is to blend mature moss with buttermilk, and then pour the mixture where you want mosses to grow.  The buttermilk helps the spores adhere to the intended surface.  Kept moist, moss will soon appear.

The spores first form a flat, felt like covering in their initial stages of growth.  This protonema will spread, eventually allowing stems and leaves to grow up from the mat and rhizoids to grow into the surface where it is growing, to anchor the plant.

 

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The easiest way to create a moss garden is to simply lift moss from where it is growing already, and move it to your container.  A little of its native soil comes with most varieties, embedded in its rhizoids.

Use a trowel , or even just your fingers, to lift small clumps of moss.  Carefully clean off any bits of soil, sticks, leaves and pine tags clinging to the moss using your hand or a soft brush. Store these clumps in a sealed plastic bag or box to retain moisture until planting time.

You might also use stones with moss already growing on them, sticks with bits of lichens, and bits of wood already colonized with moss.

 

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There are mail order nurseries which sell particular species of moss.  One must be careful though, to plant  mosses which can survive in the climate you can provide.

(And the moss sold is craft stores looks nice, but is dried out and often painted green.  I wouldn’t recommend using it to establish a living garden.)

 

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Prepare your container, usually with peat based potting soil, and simply lay the sheets of living moss on top. Press down firmly, and water in.  If the container garden will live outside, anchor light mosses with toothpicks or metal pins to hold it in place until it rhizoids attach to the soil.  I’ve had many mosses in containers plundered by nesting birds and curious squirrels!

Place the container in bright, but indirect light.  The moss should take it from there! 

Keep the moss moist with misting and watering.  If outside, humidity in the air and rain should be enough when the weather is cool.

Use moss as a ground cover around other plants. or create a garden with several different varieties of moss and stone.

Moss exudes a calm and peaceful presence however you choose to use it.

And it is the easiest of plants to grow.  Just look how tough it is in nature!

 

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

The Last Day Before Frost

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We definitely expect a freeze by tomorrow night.

We feel it coming in the wind blowing through the garden.  With our high for today in the low 50s, we know it will drop quickly from here on.

The winter storm which has so much of the country in its icy grip is blowing into Williamsburg this weekend.

 

Many of the pots have been replanted now with Violas and ornamental kale.

Many of the pots have been replanted now with Violas and ornamental kale.

 

With so much of the country under snow, and threat of snow, we can hardly complain about a mid-November frost.

But the day is still tinged with a bit of  sadness.  Sadness, and motivation to take care of everything we possibly can before the cold settles in this evening.

 

The African Blue Basil may be tough,but it isn't cold hardy.  it will die with when it freezes here.

The African Blue Basil may be tough, but it isn’t cold hardy.  It will die with the first heavy frost.  We still see bees and butterflies.  We hope they find shelter or fly south today.

 

After making the coffee this morning, I set about bringing in those last few pots of tender perennials.

I’ve filled every possible spot now in the house and garage with overwintering plants.  The main body of them in the garage  got re-arranged this morning to make room for a few more pots.

 

This Begonia has been lifted from its pot by the door and brought inside to the garage for the winter.

This Begonia has been lifted from its pot by the door and brought inside to the garage for the winter.

 

Even the brave Bougainvillea, which only started blooming in mid- October, finally made the journey from patio to garage this morning.

 

Our three year old Bouganvillia has waited until this week to begin its season of bloom.

Our three year old Bougainvillea has waited until October to bloom.  It came back into the garage this morning, covered in bright cherry flowers.

 

And the supposedly hardy “Pewter” Begonia got brought in to the garage, as well.  Its leaves are so pretty, I hate to let it go to the frost.

A pot of tender ferns, a few more pots of tender succulents, and a final mish-mash pot of Begonia cuttings completed the morning’s efforts.

 

The last pot to come in this morning, these tender ferns have a snug spot by a basement window.

The last pot to come in this morning, these tender ferns now have a snug spot by a basement window.

 

My ever patient partner assisted (supervised) this final effort until getting called away to assist a neighbor.  And from there to another neighbor’s yard, and then to another.

His work out may have been more strenuous than mine, but we all now have covered outside faucets, covered foundation vents, and we’re as ready as we can be for the prolonged stretch of  cold ahead.

 

This winter I'm using watering globes to care for the indoor plants.  Neater, they offer a nearly constant supply of moisture.

This winter I’m using watering globes to care for the indoor plants. Neater, they offer a nearly constant supply of moisture.  The fern hasn’t yet adjusted to the drier inside air.

 

And at noon our local weather guy confided that we may have some “Bay effect snow” by Saturday morning.

That seems to be the way our forecasts evolve around here.  They prepare you for a little change, and then the forecast continues to shift towards the extremes as the system progresses.

We are promised only rain this evening.  And I can feel the falling barometer and approaching storm in all of the usual places….

 

A final photo of our roses before I cut them.

A final photo of our roses before I cut them.

 

 

But we have today to enjoy the garden before Frost’s icy fingers have their way with it.  I’ve moved all those things for which there is simply no spot inside up against a brick wall on the patio.

Petunias survived there two winters ago.

Our sheltered patio provides a microclimate which stays warmer during the winter.  Petunias survived all winter here in 2012, and I hope tender plants will survive here this winter, also.

Our sheltered patio provides a micro-climate which stays warmer during the winter. Petunias survived all winter here in 2012, and I hope tender plants will survive here this winter, also.

 

They began blooming again in February, and just kept going right on through the following summer.  That gives me hope that the few geraniums and succulents I couldn’t bring in have a chance to survive.

And the little olive trees I’ve been nurturing along in pots should make it there, too.

 

Although the Colocasias look unhappy, the ginger lilies have managed fine in our cool nights.  They will all crumple when hit with freezing temperatures this weekend.

Although the Colocasias look unhappy, the ginger lilies and Canna lilies have managed fine in our cool nights. They will all crumple when hit with freezing temperatures this weekend.

 

I’ve read they are growing olives in parts of England, now.  I hope these are hardy enough to survive our winter outside, in this sheltered spot.

They traveled in and out, as the weather shifted, last winter.  It got to be quite a chore, but the olive trees  were in much smaller pots then, too.

 

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And the many Violas we’ve planted will be fine.  They will shrug off the cold.

We’ve planted lots of ornamental kale, a pot of Swiss chard, hardy ferns, bulbs, and our beloved Violas.

Our garden will continue through the winter, even though much will go with  the coming  frost.

 

Camellia

Camellia

 

 

So, we are bracing ourselves for what we’ll find Saturday morning.

The landscape continue to edit and simplify itself.  As the brilliant leaves  fall from their branches, so will our Ginger lilies and Cannas also crumple to the ground.

 

Iris "Rosalie Figge" normally blooms into December for us in Williamsburg.  This is our favorite, and most prolific, re-blooming Iris.

Iris “Rosalie Figge” normally blooms into December for us in Williamsburg. This is our favorite, and most prolific, re-blooming Iris.

 

 

The bright Salvias will shrivel back to the soil.  The Lantana will lose its leaves, though the berries will remain until cleaned up by the birds.

Basil will freeze beside the stalwart Rosemary, which grows and blooms all winter long.

Mexican Petunia, a consistent bloomer all summer, won't survive a freeze.  But its roots are hardy.  It should return in this pot by early summer.

Mexican Petunia, a consistent bloomer all summer, won’t survive a freeze. But its roots are hardy. It should return in this pot early next summer.

 

The last of autumn’s roses will soon freeze, but the Camellias will continue to bloom until spring.

 

I harvested roses and Basil, scented Pelargonium and ivy ahead of the coming rain and cold.  We'll enjoy them a few more days inside.

I harvested roses and Basil, scented Pelargonium and ivy ahead of the coming rain and cold. We’ll enjoy them a few more days inside.

 

It is the way of things, this annual turning of the seasons. 

Butterfly tree produces wonderful turquoise blue seeds, which are much loved by the birds.  Only a few remain.

Butterfly tree produces wonderful turquoise blue seeds, which are much loved by the birds. Only a few remain.

 

Something is always coming on, and something is always fading in the garden.    And we are endlessly fascinated as we witness the changes which come each and every day.

 

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

December 13 2013 poinsettias 003Holiday Wreath Challenge

The Blessing of Shade

Hydrangea, Macrophylla

Hydrangea, Macrophylla remains one of my favorite shrubs for shade.  Deer candy, we grow it now in pots on the deck, where it can’t be grazed.

 

A Forest Garden offers the blessing of cool, relaxing shade.

Crepe Myrtle enjoys full sun,, while offering shade to an Ivy Geranium basket and an Asparagus fern.

Crepe Myrtle enjoys full sun  while offering shade to an Ivy Geranium basket and an Asparagus fern.

 

Even on the hottest July day, we step into the refuge of shade, appreciate what breeze there might be,  and gather the energy to continue with whatever tasks come to hand in the rest of the garden.

 

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Our shade here is spotty.  A previous owner cut several large trees, and we have lost several  more to storms.

So the area nearest our home gets more direct sunshine than we’d wish at the height of summer.

A basket of Asparagus fern and Begonia hangs near the house on our back deck.  Normally shaded, here it basks in late afternoon sunshine.

A basket of Asparagus fern and Begonia hangs near the house on our back deck. Normally shaded, here it basks in late afternoon sunshine.

 

The trade off, of course, comes during the rest of the year.

We get solar heating in winter, and we have enough light coming through the windows to grow our garden indoors during the cooler months.

But when it stays consistently hot, for days at a time, we appreciate every bit of shade we have.

 

Colocasia enjoys sun to part shade.  Here it enjoys late afternoon shade from nearby shrubs.

Colocasia, “Blue Hawaii”  enjoys sun to part shade. Here it receives  late afternoon shade cast by nearby shrubs.

 

And we enjoy  a variety of plants which grow beautiful leaves and flowers with very little sun.

 

Begonia, "Gryphon" enjoys morning sun and afternoon shade on our front patio.  Recently grazed heavily by deer, it is gfowing a new crop of leaves.

Begonia, “Gryphon” grows well in  morning sun and afternoon shade on our front patio. Recently grazed heavily by deer, it is growing a new crop of leaves.

 

Shade vs. sun is another of the vagaries of gardening.

Very few areas are all one or the other.

 

Many "shade loving" ferns can tolerate more sun than you might expect, when hydrated.  These grow in a bank in partial shade.

Many “shade loving” ferns can tolerate more sun than you might expect, when hydrated. These grow on a bank in partial shade.

 

Most fall somewhere between “part shade” and “part sun” depending on the time of day and time of year.

The very nature of a “forest garden'” also allows for sun to shine through the bare branches of trees during the winter; and the trees’ canopies to catch and use the sunshine all summer, giving shade to the garden below.

 

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Hydrangea Macrophylla. Purchased on sale in a 4″ pot in late spring, this shrub grows happily in a pot on the deck.

 

This can make selecting and siting plants even more challenging.  What may work for a plant in May might be too much sun by August.

A plant which could never survive in a full sun area in June might thrive in the same spot in November.

 

This basket of mixed Begonias and fern hangs in a Dogwood in partial shade. These Begonias are fairly sun tolerant, but we've still had some burned leaves during these last few very hot weeks. This basket needs daily watering when there is no rain.

This basket of mixed Begonias and fern hangs in a Dogwood in partial shade. These Begonias are fairly sun tolerant, but we’ve still had some burned leaves during these last few very hot weeks. This basket needs daily watering when there is no rain.

 

I’ve worked out a fairly successful system over the years to keep shade loving plants happy.

And the secret?  Watering.

 

Caladiums, ferns and Begonias remain my favorite plants for shade.

Caladiums, ferns and Begonias remain my favorite plants for shade.

 

Not really a secret, you’re thinking?  Too obvious?

Probably…. But the secret of frequent watering is frequent observation.

Well hydrated plants can tolerate far more direct sun than dry ones, at least among the shade lovers.

 

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And frequent attention to watering allows changes in a a stressed plant’s position before a condition goes too far.

 

These pots live right "on the edge" of how much sun they can tolerate.  They get full morning sun, and then spend the afternoons in shade.

These  plants live right “on the edge” of how much sun they can tolerate. They get full morning sun, and then spend the afternoons in shade.  Known to be relatively sun-tolerant cultivars of Begonia and Caladium, they still need daily water and watching.

 

In our garden, moving a plant a few feet in one direction or the other can make a tremendous difference in how much sun it receives.

Some need a little more sun to encourage flowering.

Yet too much sun can burn their leaves.  It is a fine balance.

After finding this Staghorn fern on the clearance rack at Lowe's, I was dismayed to read its tag which said, "No direct sun."  Hanging in this Dogwood tree, it gets partial sun each day.  I keep it well watered, and, since May it has doubled in size.

After buying this Kangaraoo fern, Microsorum pustulatum, from the clearance rack at Lowe’s, I was dismayed to read its tag which said, “No direct sun.” Hanging in this Dogwood tree, it gets partial sun each day. I keep it well watered, and, since May it has doubled in size.  You can see a little scorch on some of its leaves, however.

 

Morning sun affects plants differently than mid-day or afternoon sun.  Some plants can thrive in an Eastern exposure which would fry on the Western side of the garden.

Many of our shade lovers live in pots and baskets which  can be moved around as the seasons progress each year.

 

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And we move plants as often as needed to keep them, and us,  happy.

We also practice “layering,” just as nature does.

This favorite Rex Begonia has leafed out from a bare rhizome again.  It likes its protected and shaded spot at the base of a tree.

This favorite Rex Begonia has leafed out from a bare rhizome once again.   It likes its protected and shaded spot at the base of a tree.

 

Shade loving plants can live in hanging baskets hung in trees.  A particularly delicate plant can live underneath another, enjoying shade provided by its companions.

 

July 28, 2014 shade 006

 

Plants, like people, thrive in communities.

Building a community, where each plant’s needs are met, is an ongoing challenge.

But when it works out well, it multiplies the beauty of the individuals.

 

Can you spot the little Rex Begonia in the midst of the Caladiums and ferns?

Can you spot the little Rex Begonia in the midst of the Caladiums and ferns?

 

You see, a “green thumb” is actually just a matter of attentiveness.  Observation is an honest teacher.

Once a gardener understands a plant’s needs, it is simply a matter of providing the correct amount of light and water, nutrition and protection to allow that plant to grow into its potential for beauty.

 

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And then there is the small blessing of summer shade… for the garden and the gardener.

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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WPC: Container I

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Some people believe that agriculture allowed the Genesis of human civilization millennia ago.  I beg to differ…

Actually, it was containers.

Once we humans have a place to put something, and a way to move it from here to there, we begin to collect; and to accumulate.  And civilization as we know it is born…

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So containers are the basic building blocks of our modern, civilized lives.  Think about it-

What is a home, a car, a pantry, or even a shoe… but a specialized container?

I have a special affinity for containers. 

Maybe it’s because my mother spent several years as a Tupperware dealer when she needed a flexible schedule for a while.   She always loved Tupperware, and selling it gave her the opportunity to add to her collection and set aside a kitchen full of Tupperware for each of us kids to have one day.

I still keep my flour in an ancient Tupperware container inherited from my grandmother.

And the sugar keeps forever in the 70’s era avocado green Tupperware my mother set aside for me all those years ago.

Still, I drive my partner nuts by saving many of the “disposable” containers which pass through our lives.

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These frozen yogurt containers have a thousand alternative uses…

Like catching the tiny blue tailed lizard who somehow got into our home earlier today.  He was skittering across the living room floor when I spotted him this afternoon.

Fortunately for him, our cat was sunning himself out on the deck.

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After several tries, this little guy trusted me enough to cooperate in the delicate task of catching him, lifting him from the floor, and taking him back outside where he can catch his dinner.

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Once outside, he was kind enough to allow a photo-op before disappearing behind the pots of our container garden on the patio.

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Where would we be without our containers? 

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Container

WPC: Container II

WPC: Container III

July 19, 2014 Container 035

 

 

… Wait For It…..

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Our unusually intense winter made a devastating impact on several plants in the garden.  The amount of snow and ice the garden endured, and the longer period of freezing cold weather before winter finally melted into spring made this a record breaking winter in Williamsburg.

Although we are technically in Zone 7b (average low temperatures of 5-10 F) , many winters, especially in recent years, have been far milder.  Plants rated for hardiness in Zones 8-10, like our Star Jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminoides, have made it through recent winters just fine.

Normally evergreen, with thick, glossy dark green leaves, our Star Jasmine has been an important feature of this garden for decades.  Planted in brick planter box beside the railing and fence which enclose our side entrance, this vigorous vine grew to completely cover the metal structure long before we came to the garden.

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Its tough woody stems have twined themselves into oneness with their support.

We find the vine beautiful.  We enjoy it year round, but especially in winter when it is still green and leafy.  We also enjoy many weeks of its white blooms perfuming the air each summer.

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This vine is a vigorous grower and will expand its reach each year if not frequently pruned.

And so when its leaves began turning brown and dropping in February we were concerned, but hoped the vine would survive the season.  As winter turned to spring, more and more of the vine turned brown so that  our once healthy green living wall of Jasmine by the side entrance shriveled into an unsightly mass of bare vines.

I’ve avoided showing you photos of our poor Jasmine vine.   It has been such a depressing sight.

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We both had confidence in  its strength and eventual recovery.

Soon after we recycled the pots of our seemingly dead Bay trees, and after we gave up on several Rosemary and Lavender plants, we finally agreed the time had come to prune the Jasmine vine hard in hopes of shocking it into growth.

A few remaining green leaves here and there were testament to a bit of life still in the vine, but these were few and far between.

So in late April we both had a hand in the great pruning.  We took almost half of the vine, trimming back to where the structural woody branches were clearly visible.

I poured Neptune’s Harvest over the roots, and have included the planter box in all of my outdoor watering this spring.

And the vine is slowly recovering.

From a distance our Star Jasmine remains a mass of brown, with patches of green around the edges.  But up close, new leaves and fragrant flowers are visible all over the vine now.

After a hard winter, sometimes you just have to wait for plants to respond to spring on their own time.

Osmanthus Goshinki lived happily in a pot on the deck until this winter.  Since it still has some leaves alive, we hope it will soon sprout new growth.

Osmanthus Goshiki lived happily in a pot on the deck until this winter. Since it still has some leaves alive, we hope it will soon sprout new growth.

 

We still have any number of plants “in recovery.”

An Osmanthus goshiki shrub has lived in a pot on the deck for three previous winters, but has only a handful of green leaves at the moment.

We moved the pot to a shady recovery area and I we keep checking for evidence of new growth.  So far, we’re still waiting.

A new fig shrub has growth coming from the roots, but none has broken out of its woody structure, yet.

This little fig, planted in autumn of 2012, trippled in size last summer.  So far new growth is visible only from its roots.

This little fig, moved from a container to the garden  in autumn of 2012, trippled in size last summer. So far new growth is visible only from its roots.

 

I haven’t pruned off the old wood, waiting to see whether it responds to our warm May before giving up.  So from a distance the shrub looks like a casualty of winter.

Nature has its own rhythms and patterns of hot and cold, light and dark, moisture and drought.

June 10, 2014 wait for it 003

 

We observe and respond, sometimes an ambivalent dance partner with nature taking the lead in this ever unfolding dance of life.

 

A more established fig, elsewhere in the garden, finally shows new growth from its branches.  I'll continue to wait for our newly established fig to sprout new growth before pruning it bakc.

A more established fig, elsewhere in the garden, finally shows new growth from its branches. I’ll continue to wait a few more weeks for our newly established fig to sprout new growth before pruning it back.

 

Often patience is our best ally.  And we are often rewarded with beauty when we are willing to simply …. wait for it…..

 

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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